Join a Farmer Group

Farmers transforming technologies 

Do you want to help shape the future of agricultural technologies?

We are looking for farmers who want to discuss, co-design, trial, and evaluate farm innovations that enable the balancing of productivity, sustainability and environmental benefits at the farm scale. You will be at the cutting-edge of the latest technology in monitoring areas such as nutrients, water tables, pests and diseases, or the wellbeing of livestock. You will become part of discussion groups consisting of farmers, researchers and engineers to develop these innovations. You could help test new sensors or identify important gaps in the market that could make your business more resilient.

Click here to see film of some examples of technological innovations that could form part of the farmer groups

Farmer-led innovation

Farmers face growing pressure to produce more food, more sustainably, in the presence of environmental and regulatory change. We suggest that meeting these challenges requires a shift from current thinking about innovation in farming, so that new technologies can better respond to the particular conditions found in different farm landscapes and businesses. New methods are required to ensure the knowledge, skills and interests of farmers are integrated into an innovation system capable of achieving and sustaining productivity gains today and in the future. New smart sensors could help you make better management decisions for your farm, but they need to be useful, practical and reliable. Farmers’ leading the innovation process enables the technology industry to really meet the needs of modern agriculture.

The groups

If you decide to get involved you will join one of three groups. Each group of around 15 people will include at least 10 farmers. A dedicated engineer, specialising in agricultural sensor technology, will work with the group on technology design, supported (where appropriate) by agricultural scientists. A facilitator and researcher will be present to ensure the groups run smoothly, and to allow lessons to be learnt about how best farmers, scientists and engineers can work together. We will meet around three times a year and plan to hold the meetings at group members’ farms.

  • In the first stage of the process we will focus on understanding the opportunities, challenges and frustrations facing farmers in the group. The aim is to form agreement in identifying promising areas for innovation development.
  • The second stage will focus on co-design and trialling of new technologies that will build on group members’ knowledge, skills, and needs.
  • The third stage will focus on evaluation of the innovations, and look for ways of continuing the groups beyond the three-year project time frame.

Benefits of joining a group

  • You will help shape the future of agricultural technologies and practices.
  • You will help develop specific new applications for agricultural sensors and automation technology, trial these on your farm and refine these technologies.
  • You will form a network with other farmers that will enable the exchange of knowledge and best practices.
  • You will automatically become a member of Innovative Farmers that connects you to a wide network of farmer-led trials going on around the UK.

Who is involved in this research?

This research is led by the University of York in partnership with Innovative Farmers (a consortium of LEAF, Innovation for Agriculture, the Organic Research Centre and the Soil Association), the Yorkshire Agricultural Society (YAS), and the e-Agri group at the University of Manchester.

The IKnowFood project

This initiative is one part of the multi-strand IKnowFood project looking at how the agri-food system can become more resilient. In the other strands of the project researchers are looking at the international supply chain and consumer behaviour.

How to get involved

If you want to get involved or to find out more, please contact Jon Ensor via email